Trust and Risk Communication in High-Risk Organizations: A Test of Principles from Social Risk Research
This article explores the effects of open communication about occupational risks on workers’ trust beliefs and trust intentions toward risk management, and the resilience of these beliefs.
- Intraorganization trust is important to occupational safety
- Reduction in trust following lack of communication is greater than increase in trust beliefs following open communication
- Based on the Trust Asymmetry Principle; because ‘trust is difficult to build, easy to lose’
- Trust Asymmetry Principle i.e. negative risk information reduces trust more than positive information increases trust
Role of Trust in Occupational Risk Communication
Open communication promotes shared perceptions about importance of safety and increases worker commitment to safety procedures and policies. This leads to a reduction in workplace injuries. Open communication is defined as ”complete information about difficulties and failures” (1996, p.342).
According to my understanding of the article, I have constructed a diagram:
Essentially, Risk Communication is central to Risk Management – where Trust has been stipulated as the core element. The link here I infer, is that open communication (an effective two-way dialogue) generates this trust.
Openly communicating negative risk information, however, can reduce trust or consolidate already low levels of trust.
Trust Asymmetry Principle
It is useful to derive the rationale behind the Trust Asymmetry Principle. Numerous studies have proven it is true across many contexts and risks.
The hypothesis is broken up into two forms of bias:
(1) “Negativity Bias” (Siegrist & Cvetkovich, 2001) — Individuals are influenced by negative information to a greater extent than positive information because they have more confidence in its credibility due to greater diagnostic value. The “negativity bias” has been revised to show response to negative information is moderated by existing attitudes i.e negative information reduces trust in all, but stronger in those with pre-existing negative attitudes.
(2) “Confirmatory Bias” (White et. al., 2003) — Positive information increases trust only in those with existing positive attitudes. Why? Because individuals with pre-existing negative attitudes tend to distrust positive information entirely in a confirmatory type of way.
These two forms of bias support the Trust Asymmetry Principle’s assumption that the effect of positive information on trust should be less pronounced than that of negative information.
The article investigated the effects of the Trust Asymmetry Principle within a high-risk organization designed with a mix of between-participant factors of integrity (high/low levels) and risk information (positive/negative); and within-participant factor of baseline trust and trust in an organization following high- or low- integrity information, and how resilient the changes are following the dissemination of more positive or negative risk information.
This study is unique because it reviews the Trust Asymmetry Principle against workers’ trust beliefs and trust intentions. The results of the analysis proved that beliefs and intentions are two distinct dimensions of trust.
Trust beliefs: based on an organization’s honesty (“organizations are honest with employees”), value similarity (“organizations share the same values as employees”), and benevolence (“organizations genuinely care about employees”).
Trust intentions: based on “I wouldn’t let organizations have any influence over decisions that are important to me,” “I would keep an eye on organizations” and “I would give organizations a task or problem that is critical to me, even if I am not able to monitor its actions”.
The results of this study implies that individuals employ different biases when deciding whether to alter their judgements (trust beliefs) or behavior (trust intentions). It is a significant breakthrough in risk-associated models – suggesting that we draw on both positive and negative information (confirmatory bias) when updating our trust beliefs, BUT almost exclusively on negative events (negative bias) when updating our trust intentions.
I believe that open communication is but one way to increase trust within high-risk organizations. It is important because trust that develops from open communication is relatively resilient against subsequent information of harm – whereby workers with little trust in the first place will be strongly affected by the same degree of harmful information.
However, as the study points out, because the intention to act has a strong effect on behavior (Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975), beneficial effects of positive information being specific to trust beliefs can only affect behavior to a limited extent. Where workers’ trust intentions (reliance on organization) are minimally affected by good news, and seem to be biased toward bad news, the effects of open communication being able to generate substantial trust in individuals might be overestimated. In this case, the dissection of our core ‘trust’ into the two separate elements must be considered for effective risk management.
I have heard of multiple tragedies from friends who are engineers in Keppel Land. According to them when colleagues die from workplace accidents, a stand-down meeting will be conducted the following morning. The top management informs employees of the casualty, how the tragedy struck, and places emphasis on what shoud-have-been done in order to prevent the accident. Within a local context, safety measures in high-risk organizations are governed by law, making it mandatory for the organization to follow. Of course, whether or not this Safety Information System plays out effectively is largely dependent on the willing participation of the workforce. These friends have pointed out that despite open communication symbolizing high integrity of the company and solidifying trust beliefs, where negative risk information is communicated (no holds barred) – it can indeed offset trust intentions because bad news in essence, carries greater impact on emotions than good news.
As Director of a high-risk organization, how would you modify/integrate risk communication to address the concerns of your workers’ trust intentions?
References: Conchie, S.M., and C. Burns. (2008). Trust and Risk Communication in High-Risk Organizations: A Test of Principles from Social Risk Research. Risk Analysis 28(1): 141-149.
This paper examines the challenges commonly practiced in the medical and healthcare settings, where transmitting of information are often inadequate through the use of one-way information transfer model. The case studies show how pervasive this model is in the healthcare milieus, patient encounters and health promotion programs.
The paper identifies the critical approaches to an effective communication and concludes by suggesting that all healthcare professionals move beyond traditional practices of information transfer (one-way monologue) to adopting information exchange (two-way monologue).
Gist of the paper:
Health education very often assumes that by providing information to the general public, the information disseminated is sufficient to produce improved health outcomes to the mass population. However this is a serious flaw in assumption as it disregards the social context and also assumes that the population itself have the power and agency to implement the change by acting on the information made available.
The authors have identified three main problems.
Firstly, individualist ethic. It suggests that personal healthcare is determined based on individual characteristics, behaviours and choices. As a result, the health programs developed focuses too much on personal factors for poor health and holding the patients personally accountable for their illnesses. Through moral shaming and faulting those individual themselves, these affected people will change according to the “societal norms” to the definition of a healthy body.
Secondly, privileging expert’s authority over own’s knowledge and perspectives. Very often, information in the form of expert languages were not passed down and explained to the patient. There exists a delineation of this “expert territory” where it sets a social hierarchy between the healthcare professionals and the patients. This leads to instances whereby the wrong prescription was given and too many false assumptions were made.
Thirdly, information transfer as a monologue. A very classic case due to the “existence” of hierarchal, one-sided relationship assumed by most health communication practices. The example given was an analogy to that of a teacher-student in the classroom environment. It is assumed that students (patients) considered to know nothing will act to what was taught to them.
So to better solve these problems and make the population live a healthy life, it comes down to these simple changes:
1. Instead of faulting individuals, health promotion campaigns could provide messages that contain sharing of real-life cases and realising the risks (not fear mongering!) if these lifestyles are not modified. The messages contains strong message of individual responsibility.
2. To achieve #1, thus, there needs to be an effective dialogue. A two-way communication instead of a one-way monologue channel. For example, doctors should use very simple layman’s terms (less technical jargon) and check if the patients understood what was explained to them. In addition, doctors should engage in actively with their patients which could facilitate to identity the actual cause of the illness and prescribe correct medicine. To aid the knowledge transfer, information on the related healthcare could be passed on through brochures (these days, hospital/ health ministry websites).
3. Doctors should listen to their patients regardless of their backgrounds. Doctors shouldn’t assume that their patients are clueless and patients themselves provide feedback about the medications or symptoms described. Through engaging and asking more questions to the patient, doctors could minimise greatly the medical errors.
Working in the healthcare industry (partly), honestly this is quite a boring paper as it is *already* something I see at work everyday – where residents are greatly emphasised and trained not to commit those errors. The curriculum and training for medical doctors have long addressed the above mentioned shortfalls to better serve the patients and ultimately to make the population healthier. This paper would have been relevant say, 10 years ago.
Given that society are more educated and more informed, do you raise questions or counter questions to what your doctor tells you?
And, do you tell your doctor to explain things in the most layman’s terms especially when alot of technical jargon is used? Or do you usually accept what the doctor tells you, even when you don’t even understand what he/ she is talking about as a matter of personal pride of being an educated person?
I’ll end this with a quote from my previous director (though I’ll not say his name):
“Put down your ego, always listen to the patient what he has to say. You’ll never know, that the information he countered you back comes from a proven scientific research or even one that comes from a Nobel Prize person that you yourself never heard of before. And when you actually find them out, you’ll also learn new things in the process and make you a better and knowledgeable resident (doctor).”
- Prof C. S.
Lee and Garvin. (2003). Moving from information transfer to Information exchange in health and health care. Social Science & Medicine 56: 449-464.
In the article “Down and Dirty” Leiss.W surprises me how down and dirty our society can be when comes to terms of negotiating either for profit or power. Interestingly the readings started of with an example most of us love, a game of poker. Who would not agree risk management would be best described by a game of poker.
Risk and bluff are something we associate together. In the article Leiss relates bluff is something acceptable not because it is good but it is acceptable to people in a game in poker because it is part of the game mechanics Similarly during the process of negotiation bluffing is part of the mechanics as risk is involved which i believe many of us do not agree as its not ethical.
Leiss brought up an example of how environmentalist ”bluff” their way into a new world. They make assumptions of chemicals not fully tested and claimed they are harmful as they affects human life. These methods of re-evaluation of prior research is essential to the scientific enterprise but it is considered dirty business of risk controversies, generation public fear based on provisional research findings and all these are just part of the game.
See Wikipedia’s well referenced page on denialism: here
Diethelm and McKee quote the Hoofnagle brothers in defining denialism as the ‘employment of rhetorical arguments to give the appearance of legitimate debate when there is none, an approach that has the ultimate goal of rejecting a proposition on which a scientific consensus exists.’ (Diethelm & McKee, 2009) In this article, it is the authors’ hope that by identify and giving examples of the 5 characteristic elements that denialism employs, the reader can recognize and confront denialism when faced with it in the future.
Denialism is a process that employs some or all of five characteristic elements in a concerted way.
1)”The first is the identification of conspiracies.”
It is insinuated that the community did not study the evidence independently and arrive at the same conclusion. Instead, the consensus is a result of a complex and secretive conspiracy at work. Identification of conspiracies aims to frame the debate and shed doubt on established consensus.
2)”The second is the use of fake experts.”
Paying experts in the field or a related field to lend support and credibility to their argument or selecting experts whose view coincide with theirs even though their views may be inconsistent with established knowledge.This is often complemented by denigration or defamation of the extablished experts and researchers to discredit their work and cast doubt on their motivations.
3)”The third characteristic is selectivity, drawing on isolated papers that challenge the dominant consensus or highlighting the flaws in the weakest papers among those that support it as a means of discrediting the entire field.”
Also known as cherry picking, papers that support their views are brought into the debate while weaker papers that oppose their view are attacked. Doing this ignores the other research and papers that may not be in their favour. It is a kind of fallacy of selective attention.
4)”The fourth is the creation of impossible expectations of what research can deliver.”
By focusing and drawing attention to the limitations of science and research and asking for impossible things, it discredits the scientific consensus, ignoring the data and knowledge accumulated thus far. This can take place as moving the goalpost. ‘Evidence presented in response to a specific claim is dismissed and some other (often greater) evidence is demanded. In other words, after a goal has been scored, the goalposts are moved farther to discount the attempt.’
5)”The fifth is the use of misrepresentation and logical fallacies.”
Logical fallacies such as ‘straw men’ are employed. By misrepresenting the opponent’s claim with a similar yet unequivalent claim which is easier to refute, the illusion of refuting the original position is created.
The paper provides insight into many of the widely debated topics in the media today. I think the paper achieves what Diethelm and McKee hoped, by identifying denialism when it is at work, it allows us better critical understanding of debates as well as the motivations of the debaters.
Also, the paper is useful should we find ourselves locked in a debate sitting on the opposite side of a fence from deniers. By having clearer understanding of the elements they would employ, perhaps we can arm ourselves better against attempts to discredit and refute us.
One thing of note about the people who engage in denialism is that their minds are already made up. Instead of having open minds and not jumping to a conclusion before studying all the evidence, listening to all parties and considering all possibilities which is hallmark of the scientific discourse, they will stick stubbornly to their views in spite of the consensus. This also makes it sometimes impossible to engage in a meaningful discourse with them.
Denialism makes heavy use of rheotoric, framing, misdirection, heuristics and logical fallacies to further their objectives. The paper by Diethelm and McKee makes a very interesting and thought provoking read and provides insight into communication strategies for political, scientific, religious, moral and environmental debates.
Question for the reader
What are some examples of denialism that you have come across recently? ‘Ponding‘ comes to mind. Definite misrepresentation there.
Diethelm P., and M. McKee. (2009). Denialism: what is it and how should scientists respond? European Journal of Public Health, Vol. 19, No. 1, 2–4. Available at: http://eurpub.oxfordjournals.org/content/19/1/2.full
The article draws on the key findings of a study conducted in the UK of youth civic attitudes and internet user experience, and considers the challenges facing civic institutions and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) aiming to mobilise young citizens.
Main factors affecting current mode of youth civic engagement (Based on young participants’ own narratives):
- low levels of efficacy (i.e. belief that one’s actions have value and can make a difference + belief in the responsiveness of the system to one’s actions)
- scepticism about the relevance of many public affairs to people’s everyday life. (an individual’s effort to invest time, money, energy, attention may not necessarily “pay off” by making real, visible difference to one’s everyday life or community.)
Youth’s motivation to participate
It was found that young people are willing to engage with issues that are close to their lifeworld as long as they are provided with accessible and effective tools of participation.
Although participants in the study are found to be individualistic, Collective engagement is negatively perceived by young people due to their lack of faith in its effectiveness, rather than a feeling that people should not engage collectively.
Etkin and Ho (2007: 623) noted, it is “not a rational decision for most individuals to take actions to reduce risk from climate change in the absence of collective action, yet collective action is extraordinarily difficult to achieve.
Young people also demand to understand explicitly an issue’s relevance to their life or community before they are willing to commit action.
Youth’s pattern of Internet use
The paper then considers young people’s evaluations of four NGO websites related to environmental issues and global poverty (including Fairtrade and Friends of the Earth). It is argued that young people’s use of the internet is mostly functional and habitual, as opposed to creative or experimental.
Gerodimos noted that young people would not normally look for, or access the websites (of NGOs promoting causes oriented towards ordinary consumers, chosen in this study) if they had not previously seen an advertisement or feature on television or other ‘old’ media.
Mass media coverage and organisational reputation become even more important in attracting the (segmented) audience’s attention.
The article also discusses the use of emotions such as fear and hope to stimulate young people’s participation may be perceived as pushy, lead to denial and inaction, amongst others, and may backfire on the message.
(Criteria for The Ideal Online Mobilisation Campaign base on above findings)
1. Relevant to people’s everyday life
2. Combines Macro-Social Change with Micro-Social Benefits
3. Creates an Ongoing Narrative
4. Reinforces a Consistent Message
5. Sets Clear and Feasible Objectives
6. Puts Emphasis on Results
7. Provides Citizens with the Tools to Make a Difference
8. Maximises the Audience
9. Invests in Accessible and Attractive Design
10. Depends on the Mass Media
There are already so many environmental messages around us yet the efforts to save the environment are still insufficient. What will motivate you to play your part? Do you agree with Gerodimos on the 10 recommendations proposed? Which environmental campaign have you encountered, or even participated in, where you think they have been executed successfully and incorporated the above recommendations?
Gerodimos, R. (2008). How to mobilise young people: Recommendations for NGOs and civic organisations. 58th Political Studies Association Annual Conference. University of Swansea: Political Studies Association.
Mind the Gap: Why do people act environmentally and what are the barriers to pro-environmental behavior?
The article describes a few of the most influential and commonly used analytical frameworks, amongst the numerous theoretical frameworks developed, to explain the gap between the possession of environmental knowledge and awareness, versus displaying pro-environmental behavior.
1. Early US linear progression models
The limitation showed that in most cases, increase in knowledge and awareness did not lead to pro-environmental behavior.
Many communication strategies today are based on the assumption that more knowledge will lead to more enlightened behavior, however changing behavior is difficult. Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975, 1980, asserts the need to first measure the attitude toward that particular behavior.
2. Altruism, Empathy, and Prosocial Behavior Models
Various researchers hypothesized that in order to act pro-environmentally, individuals must focus beyond themselves and be concerned about the community at large. This state of ‘actively caring’ can only occur if the need for self-esteem, belonging, personal control, self-efficacy, and optimism have been satisfied. Allen and Ferrand (1999) however, contends that there was a significant relationship only between personal control and sympathy.
3. Sociological Models
Sociological and psychological factors are independent from each other and can be influenced and changed.
Blake (1999) points out that most pro-environmental behavior models are limited because they fail to take into account individual, social, and institutional constraints and assume that humans are rational and make systematic use of the information available to them.
Kollmuss and Ageyman incorporated above and other models to analyse pro-environmental behavior through 3 main factors, acknowledging that the factors may be inter-related and may not have clear boundaries:
- Social and cultural
a. Motivation (e.g. Should I bike to work today, even though it rains, or do I drive?)
b. Environmental knowledge
- Childhood experiences in nature
- Experiences of pro-environmental destruction
- Pro- environmental values held by the family
- Pro-environmental organizations
- Role models (friends or teachers)
d. Attitudes (people choose the pro-environmental behaviors that demand the least cost (which may include time and effort needed to undertake that behavior)
e. Environmental awareness
- Non-immediacy of many ecological problems
- Slow and gradual ecological destruction
- Complex systems
- Emotional involvement
- Emotional non-investment
- Emotional reactions
f. Locus of control (People with a strong internal locus of control believe that their actions can bring about change, and vice versa)
g. Responsibility and priorities
Internal and external factors play a large part in shaping one’s pro-environmental behavior, and therein lies the barriers.
The question of what shapes pro-environmental behavior is such a complex one that it cannot be visualized through one single framework or diagram. We can only aim to achieve better understanding in this complex field.
The authors proposed their own model of predictors of environmental behavior and assert that they do not attribute a direct relationship to environmental knowledge and pro-environmental behavior. Education does not necessarily mean increased pro-environmental behavior. They termed environmental knowledge, values, and attitudes, together with emotional involvement simply as ‘pro-environmental consciousness’.
They also asserts that old behavior patterns/habits form a very strong barrier that is often overlooked in this field. Take for example an individual who has always driven to work. It will be rather tough to break that old habit and start taking public transport again (what with the ridiculous peak hour rush/overcrowded population). Granted, drivers will also be met with incessant traffic jams, but at least they are in the comfort of their car (motivation factor). Although in this case, there is also the issue of institutional factor – the public transport infrastructure could be lacking.
Would you consider taking public transport if you own a car and drive for the sake of the environment? Why yes, and why not?
Kollmuss, A and J Agyeman. (2002). Mind the Gap: Why do people act environmentally and what are the barriers to pro-environmental behavior? Environmental Education Research 8(3): 239- 260.
This paper discusses about how raising the public’s knowledge and awareness can help in protecting marine environment, and also the role media play in informing the public about marine protection.
According to Compas et al. (2007), research has shown that a well-informed public is more likely to support environmental issues and print media, particularly newspapers, are considered the most credible source of media.
Compas et al., (2007) notes that it is very challenging to engage the public in efforts to protect the marine environment due to poor knowledge of marine environment and little personal experience with marine animals and habitats (Zann, 1995) (Steel et al., 2005). Public’s knowledge about the marine environment corresponds to the public’s support for marine conservation (Steel et al., 2006).
Media and environmental issues
Marine protected area or MPA is recognised globally as a proven means to “preserve coastal and ocean environments” (Agardy, 2000). As the public are poorly informed about the marine environment, how the media portray MPAs could readily shape the public’s understanding and opinions about MPAs (McCallum et al., 1991).
The media act as the ‘gatekeepers’ and decide what information comes to us and also how we should perceive it – they construct and shape our social experience (Burgess and Gold, 1985). What comes to us through the media is determined by its newsworthiness. Environmental issues are not always newsworthy because they are “complex and systemic” and consequently, environmental news usually lack the context that the public needs to empathise with the issue (Beder, 2004) (Burgess and Harrison, 1993).
In this paper, a study is done to examine how media portray marine protection, using the Encounter Marine Park (a Marine protected area or MPA) in South Australia as a case study.
- 65 online newspaper articles dated January 1999 and March 2006 were collected to examine their content.
- 57 or 88% were found to have written specifically about MPA in South Australia. The rest wrote on different topics but carried mentions of MPAs in the articles.
- Little information about marine environments and why their protection is necessary.
- Little information about MPA, its founding, the agencies involved etc.
- Articles gave the impression that the MPA process was flawed due to inadequate public consultation.
- 77% of the articles contain views of individuals or organisations – mostly from select local groups and their representatives.
- Public’s views and marine experts’ opinions were not reported in the articles examined.
The above findings suggest that the media did not play their role well in educating the public regarding MPA. Important information (i.e. local marine experts’ opinions, context of MPA, general public’s opinions) that is necessary for the public to make informed opinions about the MPA process, was left out.
I do agree that the media has the power to shape public’s opinions about a certain issue. Newspapers may have been the most credible source of information, but organisations do not have to feel aggrieved that the media are not helping much to promote their cause. There are many other modes of communication that one can use to raise awareness about an issue and influence support. And they don’t have to be costly like social media (generally low CPM).
I would like to pose a question that is relevant to the communication strategy project that we are working on.
Do you agree that ‘understanding’ (the emphasis in this paper) can increase the recognition of the need to mitigate issues like climate change, animal abuse, violence against women?
Compas, E, Clarke B, Cutler C and Daish,K. (2007). Murky waters: Media reporting of marine protected areas in South Australia. Marine Policy 31: 691–697.
Zann L. (1995). Our sea, our future: major findings of the State of the Marine Environment Report for Australia. Canberra: Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories.
Steel BS, Smith C, Opsommer L, Curiel S, Warner-Steel R. (2005). Public ocean literacy in the United States. Ocean and Coastal Management; 48:97–114.
Steel B, Lovrich N, Lach D, Fomenki V. (2006). Correlates and consequences of public knowledge concerning ocean fisheries management. Coastal Management; 33(1):37–51.
Agardy T. (2000). Information needs for marine protected areas. Scientific and Societal Bulletin of Marine Science; 66(3):875–88.
Beder S. (2004). Moulding and manipulating the news. In: White R, editor. Controversies in environmental sociology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 204–20.
McCallum DB, Hammond SL, Covello VT. (1991). Communicating about environmental risks: how the public uses and perceives information sources. Health Education Quarterly; 18(3):349–61.
Burgess J and Gold J. (1985). Introduction: place, the media and popular culture. In: Burgess J, Gold J, editors. Geography, the media and popular culture. Sydney: Croom Helm. p. 1–33.
Burgess J. and Harrison CM. (1993). The circulation of claims in the cultural politics of environmental change. In: Hansen A, editor. The mass media and environmental issues. Leicester: Leicester University Press. p. 198–221.
- janisuhoshi (20906271)
This article discusses the evaluation of an informal science education project, The Birdhouse Network (TBN) of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology (CLO), and the effectiveness in changing participants’ knowledge and attitudes using the hands-on approach for its target audience.
Brossard discusses the lack of basic scientific concepts, literature that are available for the general public to research or inquire from. Although there are good baseline data projects that exist at the national and international levels for documentation, but many of them are measured in relative terms and many times, published as ‘grey literature’. Most importantly, they do not provide standardized scales or other tools that allow comparison of effectiveness across other studies.
In the TBN project, CLO wanted to achieve two goals; first is the assess the effectiveness of the project, and second to compare the knowledge and attitudes of the participants towards the project with national norms. This is so that this project will be available and feasible for other related research project to use.
Problem with citizen-science project nowadays
- Insufficient justified data and information.
- Lack of literature support from similar field studies
- Lack of standardized scales and data
Why is it important to provide a standardized scales?
Lack of standardized comparable data makes it difficult to decide. For example to decide which project achieves the particular goals better than another project; both may deemed to be ‘successful’ based on their own internal evaluation, but without standardized scales, there are no clear basis to choose which are better, or to use them in a real-world situation of having limited time and resources.
Using Standardized scales and national norms allow one to understand more about the elements of the project, the particular target audience, or the challenges that it faces.
The Birdhouse Network (TBN)
TBN focuses on the studies of cavity-nesting birds such as blurbirds, tree swallows, and the American kestrls. Where these species depend on the presence of dead trees and other dead woods to build their nests. However, due to the dramatic decline of standing dead trees left in the United States over the last two centuries, these animals habitat has been severely reduced.
TBN aims to achieve two goals:
- To increase the participants’ knowledge about science and its process and change the participants’ attitudes toward science and the environment.
- Allow scientists to gather large sets of data, based on participants’ observation, which can be used for research ultimately published in peer-reviewed journals.
The main method CLO used in their citizen-science project is Experiential education. According to the experiential theory, ‘information gained through experience provides a requisite contextual base for assimilating information obtained through symbolic, vicarious, and other indirect means’ (Tuss, 1996).
Simply said, information gained through experience are credible and dependable. In the experiential model, participants progress from action, to understanding the consequences of the action in a particular context, to generalization to a broader context (Tuss, 1996).
I agree to Brossard that, some people learn better through hands-on experience because they can make full use of their five senses to experience and learn through the process.
So what are your views in this? Do you think through experiential education, people learn better? Are results obtained solely through this model credible?3
Brossard, D, Lewenstein, B and Bonney, R. (2005). Scientific knowledge and attitude change: The impact of a citizen science project’, International Journal of Science Education, 27: 9, 1099 – 1121.
This article mentions that theories of behavioral prediction and behavioral change are useful because they give a framework to help identify the determinants of any given behavior, which is a start essential to developing a successful way to change a behavior. Knowing more about the determinants of a behavior will allow one to better develop an effective communication to reinforce or change behaviors. The article serves as a guide for communicators to understand the variables to developing an effective message.
Fishbein Integrative Model
The authors utilized the Fishbein Integrative Model, which brings together a number of theoretical views. It is mentioned in the model that any given behavior will most likely occur if one has a strong intention to perform the behavior, has the skill and abilities to perform the behavior and there are no environmental or constraints to prevent the performance. Also mentioned are three important determinants of intention, attitude towards performing the behavior, perceived norms concerning performance and self-efficacy with respect to performing the behavior. The importance of these variables as determinants of intention depends on the behavior as well as the population being considered.
The three factors are all affected by underlying beliefs about the outcomes of performing the behavior, the norms which the person is exposed to in his/her group and specific barriers or facilitators of behavioral performance. For example, if one believes that quitting smoking is good for his health and prevent health issues, the more favorable one’s attitude towards performing that behavior. Another is if peer pressure or a specific important person in that individual’s life performs the behavior or feels that he/her should not perform the behavior, the more the individual will comply. Lastly, the more one perceives that he/her has the skills and abilities to perform the behavior in the face of barriers, the stronger one’s self efficacy to perform the behavior. Thus, communication professionals should go to people in the particular population to identify the salient outcome, normative and efficacy beliefs.
The model also shows the role played by demographic, personality, attitudinal and other individual difference factors like perceived risk and sensation seeking characteristics. The model is both population and behavior specific where the variables are all different in different populations and cultures.
Applying the model
The first step to using the model is to identify the behavior that a communicator wishes to understand, reinforce and change. Second, one must understand that the definition of a behavior involves the action, the target, the context and the time. Any change in one of these elements changes the behavior under consideration. Once one or more behaviors are identified, the model can help to understand why some members of a target population are performing the behavior and others are not. Specific beliefs can then be identified and addressed in a theory-based communication. If properly implemented, behavioral theory can identify the critical beliefs underlying the performance of any behavior and the beliefs can be targets of a persuasive communication or intervention.
Role of Communication Theory
Although the theories of behavior prediction and change can help identify the critical beliefs underlying a given behavior, theories of communication are needed to craft messages that will increase belief change, which unfortunately as mentioned are not as advanced as theories of behavior prediction and change. Several theories are given by the authors including if a message is to be effective, it must be attended to, comprehended, accepted and yielded to. Others include how messages are framed; loss-framed messages are more effective when promoting illness-detecting behaviors and gain-framed messages are more effective for promoting health-affirming behaviors. Although research on perceived effectiveness and framing are mentioned to be the right way, there is still a lack of strong studies on valid and comprehensive theories of message effectiveness. It is hard to tell what factors can influence acceptance, yielding and impact. It is thus hard to tell how best to design a message so that it is attended to, accepted and yielded to.
The authors mentioned that if a receiver already holds the beliefs advocated in a message, he/she may accept the message, but such acceptance will not lead to belief change. However, in my opinion, taking an example in smoking, a person may have changed their beliefs moving to a position that he or she feels that it harms his/her health and wants to quit. However, due to peer pressure he/she is unable to quit.
Do you agree with the model and what do you think are factors or ways that can best enhance message effectiveness?
Fishbein Martin and Cappella Joseph N (2006) ‘The Role of Theory in Developing Effective Health Communications’, Journal of Communication pp.S1-S17 Available from: http://www.google.com.sg/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&frm=1&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&sqi=2&ved=0CCQQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.stes-apes.med.ulg.ac.be%2FDocuments_electroniques%2FMET%2FMET-COM%2FELE%2520MET-COM%2520A-8100.pdf&ei=HvB8UJuVDYqHrAfv1ICQBw&usg=AFQjCNGPMeo2M6wTn8r9aNPVj5HJk0Ls8A
We are quite familiar with this theory by now, aren’t we?
Albert Hirschmann said that having opinions is important for a person’s well being. In fact, he goes on to expound this point by pointing out that “Vacillation, indifference or weakly held opinions have long met with utmost contempt, while approval and admiration have been bestowed on firmness, fullness, and articulation of opinion.”
So how does opinion have anything to do with the framing theory? Well, let me explain. Democracy requires citizens to vote and choose their leaders. And citizens have opinions. The big problem, as was seen in studies by Converse and Zaller shows that having opinions that are “stable, consistent, informed and connected to abstract principles and values” are a rarity. In fact, public opinion is fickle and is easily manipulated.
How are opinions manipulated? Glad you asked. Framing is the key. The main idea behind framing is the understanding that ”an issue can be viewed from a variety of perspective and be construed as having implications for multiple values or considerations.”
Depending how you frame it, the picture above can be a man playing the horn, or it can be a silhouette of a woman. By manipulating the frames, you can “affect attitudes and behaviours of audiences.” The term “framing effect” is typically used in reference to the communications of the elites to affect and influence the frames and attitudes of the public.
But where the framing effect works best when there is only a singular frame put forward by the elite, framing effects tend to lessen when there are competing frames. Public opinion and attitudes tend to be more cautious once there are competing frames as they now are able to weigh the issue accordingly.
Framing that goes against a persons beliefs are also discarded. People with strong attitudes will most likely choose the frames that are aligned to their on beliefs, indulging in what Lodge and Taber call “motivated reasoning”, where the person accepts certain frames according to predispositions and reject or devalue frames that go against their own values.
But framing isnt all bad. Sometimes framing something in a certain way helps to define social norms. Many people go around downloading free movies of the internet without thinking about the consequences. Recent framing of Movie piracy as an illegal act that hampers creativity and hurts the future of movies have made people rethink their actions. In a way, framing can teach us right from wrong, or in this case, what society views as right or wrong.
So how do you figure? Is framing the root of all evil, or does it help us to become better people?
Chong, D., & Druckman, J. N. (2007). Framing theory. Annual Review of Political Science, 1(10), 103-126.